State investigators say they’ve made a break in a cold case, finally pulling together enough evidence to charge a man for homicide fifteen years after it allegedly happened.
They say a Juneau Grand Jury on Friday returned with an indictment against 50-year old Robert D. Kowalski, charging him for first and second degree murder. The case has not yet been assigned to a particular judge, but bail — according to Alaska State Troopers — was set at $1,000,000.
Troopers believe that Kowalski, then a Washington State resident, traveled to Yakutat for a vacation with his then girlfriend, 39-year old Sandra M. Perry.
The incident, initially reported as an accidental shooting, was at the Glacier Bear Lodge in July of 1996.
Troopers say that a man staying in the next room at the lodge reported hearing an argument, then a gunshot, followed by silence. Kowalski told Troopers that he armed himself with a shotgun after he and Perry heard a bear outside their room. But Kowalski said he tripped onto the bed and fell on top of Perry and the gun discharged when he got up.
Kowalski was never charged for Perry’s death. The prosecutor assigned to the case apparently determined that there was not enough evidence then to disprove Kowalski’s claim of an accidental shooting.
The Alaska Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case Unit reviewed the Yakutat incident after Kowalski was convicted in Montana of killing another girlfriend there, 45-year-old Lorraine Kay Morin in March of 2008. The Kalispell Daily Inter Lake newspaper in Montana reported that the incident included the arrest of Kowalski after a 31-hour standoff at his home that involved SWAT teams from three jurisdictions. The gun used in the shooting was recovered from his home. Kowalski told investigators the gun accidentally went off as he was falling backward into a chair.
Alaska investigators say they’ve initiated proceedings to extradite Kowalski so that he can face murder charges here.